When People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) exposed a SeaWorld employee as a corporate spy who had infiltrated the organization’s meetings and protests, the theme park’s initial response was to accuse PETA of hypocrisy. SeaWorld pointed to the fact that PETA encourages undercover investigations, as if the two were somehow remotely similar.
But, as this story has gained traction and as PETA prepares to expose more alleged SeaWorld spies, the theme park has had to adjust its response and place the employee accused of infiltration on paid leave.
On July 15, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced an investigation led by Ron Olson of the law firm, Munger, Tolles, & Olson.
“The allegations made yesterday against a SeaWorld employee are very concerning,” Manby said in a statement. “These allegations, if true, are not consistent with the values of the SeaWorld organization and will not be tolerated.”
How come this was not SeaWorld’s initial response when media organizations were asking for comment on PETA’s accusations, which included clear evidence of infiltration? Is it because SeaWorld has encouraged some of its employees to engage in such dirty tricks?
PETA alleged Paul T. McComb claimed to be “Thomas Jones” and showed up at PETA protests against SeaWorld. He operated a Twitter account as “Thomas Jones,” where he posted messages attempting to incite protesters to “burn” SeaWorld “to the ground” or rush the gates at a future action.
During a protest where PETA activists engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience and blocked a float in the 2014 Rose Parade, “Jones” was arrested with other activists. He subsequently disappeared, and there is no record of charges ever being filed against him.
PETA contends it has been targeted by more SeaWorld spies in addition to McComb and does not believe the suspension and investigation will amount to anything more than a cover-up.
“Suspending your own agents is an old trick, which usually comes with a backroom deal of compensation and a promise to bring them back when things die down, which is unlikely to be the case with this beleaguered business,” PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said in a statement. “Furthermore, we do not believe that SeaWorld limited its espionage efforts to McComb’s activities. It has hired protesters to attend SeaWorld rallies, and PETA is currently looking at two more men we believe were SeaWorld agents hired to infiltrate PETA as ‘volunteers,’ and the list may grow.”
Newkirk indicated more names and photographs of other people it believes infiltrated demonstrations and “volunteer activities” will be released. (more…)